Photo courtesy of David Risner

Many workers know that a 6 foot working surface has potential fall hazards and fall protection is needed.  But what about working at a depth/height of 3 foot?  Even this
small distance may cause hazards if a safe means of access/egress is not present.

Pictured above is a subcontractor performing work in a trench only 3 foot deep, but a ladder is being used as a means of access/egress.

Information from Health & Safety International states:

1.  When planning any activities which may involve working at height, the following 
     hierarchy of control measures should be considered:

  • Avoidance where possible, of working at height;
  • Working from an existing place of work, or using an existing means of access and egress;
  • Provision of suitable work equipment to prevent a fall occurring, e.g. edge protection;
  • Provision of work equipment to minimize the distance and consequences of a fall, e.g. fall arrest systems; and
  • Instruction and training and/or other means.

2.  Where work at height cannot be avoided, an existing safe place of work should be
      used.  Workplaces (and means of access or egress) should:

  • Be stable and of sufficient strength and rigidity for their purpose;
  • Rest on stable and suitably strong surfaces;
  • Be of sufficient size to allow safe use for persons, plant and material;
  • Have suitable means for preventing a fall;
  • Have a surface which has no gap through which a person or material could fall and cause injury;
  • Be constructed, used and maintained to prevent the risks of slipping, tripping of any person; and being trapped between them and any adjacent structure.

3.  Where it isn’t reasonable to avoid work on or near a fragile surface:

  • Suitable protection, such as platforms, coverings, crawling boards or guardrails, must be provided, and 
  • Where this is not practicable, measures should be taken to minimize the distance and consequence of any fall, e.g. fall arrest systems, safety nets and air bags.

To read more from this article, please visit Health And Safety International: Working at Height Hazards and Control Measures.

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